Yesterday, the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church and the New York-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) reunified after 90 years. The ceremony was held on 17 May at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral.
There, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksey II and ROCOR Metropolitan Lavr formally signed a document restoring relations and then celebrated a joint service.
ROCOR broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia when the Revolution began in 1917. White Russian bishops set up a separate Church body first in Stavropol, then in Karlovac in Yugoslavia. The body moved to its current headquarters on East 93rd Street in Manhattan in the late 1930s.
ROCOR today claims 500,000 members in over 30 countries. The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest Orthodox Church in the world.
Ties with Moscow were severed completely in 1927, when the then-Patriarch of Moscow formally declared his loyalty to the Soviet regime. Supporters said he acted to preserve the Church in Russia; opponents saw it as treachery.
Even though the two Churches will now be reunified, the ROCOR will maintain its separateness. In fact, it seems that little will actually change other than ROCOR acknowledging the leadership of the Patriarch of Moscow.
Of course, now there is the risk of ROCOR believers resisting the reunification and splitting of themselves, but talk of that is being downplayed. Another controversy concerns the role of Russian President Vladimir Putin.